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One of them involves pregnancy – in fact, the final menstrual period doesn't end the possibility of conception
Bestselling author, obstetrician and gynecologist Jen Gunter has a lot to say about menopause.
In a phone interview from her home in San Francisco, she discussed everything from bone health to bladder issues to brain fog – all of which can surface at this time of life.
“Not everybody has a problematic menopause transition,” Gunter emphasized. “Some people have very normal symptoms. I think it’s important for people to know there’s a wide range.
“And there’s lots of things you can do about it if you do have symptoms,” she continued. “It doesn’t have to be an end. It’s certainly not an end to your relevance.”
She’s distilled much of what she’s learned on this topic in her new book, The Menopause Manifesto: Own Your Health With Facts And Feminism.
Then there’s the issue of pregnancy and menopause, which she also addresses in The Menopause Manifesto.
“I think it’s just a really important for people to understand that there’s always a potential pregnancy until you’re a year after your last period – until we know you’re truly menopausal,” Gunter said. “How badly someone doesn’t want to be pregnant is something that only they know.”
As an example, she said there might be 47-year-olds who don’t care if they get pregnant. Then there are those who definitely don’t want this, so they should use keep using contraception in the months after their final menstrual period.
“You can only make an informed choice if you have all the information,” she stated.
Gunter decided to write about menopause while on tour discussing her previous book, The Vagina Bible, which has been translated into 19 languages.
She was surprised by the number of women who wanted to ask questions about menopause, convincing her of the need for an authoritative, reader-friendly book on this issue.
When asked about the biggest misconceptions about menopause, she replied that too many people believe there are no treatments for women who are suffering with symptoms.
Gunter cited another misconception: that treatments are “overly risky.”
Then there’s the belief – held by some doctors – that symptoms start after the final menstrual period when she said that they actually begin years before during the menopause transition.
“The most common symptoms are hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, and vaginal dryness,” Gunter noted. “Some people have joint pain.”
Other symptoms can include minor depression and temporary brain fog. There’s even a chart in the book links certain symptoms to associated medical conditions.
For example, hot flashes and night sweats could be connected to osteoporosis. Pain with sex might be related to Type 2 diabetes. And joint pain can be a sign of urinary-tract infections.
The Menopause Manifesto also includes a stark warning about cardiovascular issues. A symptom of this might be abnormal menstrual bleeding, which can include heavy and/or irregular periods and bleeding in between periods.
“One in three women will die from heart disease,” Gunter warned. “That’s not reflected in the headlines or in what we see. I mean, most women are shocked to learn that fact.”
She also said that headlines about hormone therapy are much scarier than what people will learn once they “actually get the facts.”
This is why she advises people to keep an open mind on this issue.
Gunter noted that hormone therapy is not a cure but can help alleviate symptoms associated with the menopausal transition and stave off osteoporosis.
She added that if women are not experiencing symptoms and have no concern about osteoporosis, then they obviously don’t need treatment.
“I would say in general, for women who are under the age of 60 or less than 10 years from their final menstrual period – if they are otherwise healthy and not at a very high risk for cardiac disease or breast cancer—that menopausal hormone therapy is a very low-risk therapy,” Gunter said.
Jen Gunter appears at at an online event at the Toronto Public Library on June 14 at 7 pm. Register here.
This story originally appeared in the Georgia Straight.